Lowes or cheaper kitchen cabinets questions

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Minister of Fire
Hearth Supporter
Sep 21, 2009
Northwest PA on the lake
I've installed many a cabinet in my day so installation I'm good . I've never installed a budget kitchen. I've always done middle to upscale for new construction. Funny thing is I can put them in but can't afford them!! Well I don't do that kinda work any longer either. What I was wondering is this:

Are they built square?

Built well enough for the average user?

I know they are particle board and laminated side panels.

I'm going with the assumption that a budget cabinet installed correctly and with nice hardware will look and wear just fine.

I'm trying to re do my kitchen in the spring and the budget it tight cuz we really need new appliances bad. We love the look of Hickory and the ones from Lowes seen to look fine to me, solid faces and doors. Just not real keen on particle board on the sides/bottom and shelves.

If you've had any exp with them please chime in.

I can answer about mid-line cabinets. We put in a set 16 years ago. The fronts are maple. Plywood sides, mostly stapled construction including the drawers. They are holding up fine for us so far.
Installed my HD cabinets 15 years ago. Aside from a leak in the dishwasher, which caused the cabinet support to suffer wear, badly (we added CCA to hold it up), not a problem.

I figure in another 5 years or so, to do a kitchen redo. We'll build our own cabinets for that one.
I would take my time and look for used cabinets coming out of a renovation. Occasionally you can get some well made cabinets. Its a crap shoot and you need to know sizing and be willing to accomodate different styles.
If you have time try.

I see your from N/W PA.

A couple of things that I've learned from this area while putting in low/mid grade kitchens in a couple places I rent is this:

1. Busy Beaver has a sale once or twice a year that is essentially half off on custom order cabinets. You can get decent all wood cabinets when this sale hits for the price of the particle boards.

2. The in-stock cabinets at HD and Lowes are usually less than a hundred bucks apart from the first tier of the custom order cabinets that either store offers for sale. It's been my experience that fit/finish of the customs are a notch above the in store models.

Not sure if this helps but it comes from my first hand experience in the Pittsburgh area.
When we built our house 7 years ago we went to HD for kitchen cabinets figureing it was by far the cheapest game in town. We designed our entire kitchen there, decent cabinets, but nothing special, particle board and glued pine fronts, etc. Imagine my surprise when we went to a local shop on a lark and designed the same kitchen there and the price came in a full $1000 lower than HD. We got solid maple fronts with dovetail attachements, finished maple plywood cabinets and a few extra nicities like an integrated cuttingboard. Check a couple local places before you buy from HD or Lowes...you may be surpised.

On another idea, have you considered refacing the cabinets you have now instead of replacing them altogether? Might be a nice alternative if you're on a budget.
My wife and I are almost done working on our dining room renovation which means the kitchen is next up . . . and I don't mind telling you I'm looking forward to doing the renovation on the kitchen . . . not looking forward to having the kitchen all tore up, but I am so looking forward to getting rid of the pink formica countertop near the sink and the white with gold sparkles formica counter top on the other side near the stove.

My wife waffled back and forth on what to do or what to put in . . . custom, buy the cheap HD/Lowes cabinets, reface the doors or just paint the ones we have. At this point I think she is leaning towards either just replacing the doors and/or repainting the cabinets since while they were home-made they are actually built half-way decently and are quite a bit larger than the stock cabinets we have seen.
Thanks guys, our cabinets now are plastic laminent yuck!! I'm changing the whole layout also. The old ones will go to the laundry room/garage. I still have contractor buddies that I could buy from so I can maybe get better pricing from the local shops. It's the fridge and stove the wife wants and we need for a family of 6 thats killing me in price. I considered building them and subing out the doors but the time it would take is to much right now.
Those cheap cabinets are built ok. It is the drawer slides that suck. They are those cheap ones. I was thinking on using the Lowes cabinets but I would have to change the drawer slides. Still not sure. I think I may have to go with mid-grade cabinets...
I've only had cheap cabinets in a rental once.
The boxes and faces were built OK, but the hardware was horrible.
Horrible drawer slides and doors would fall off.
And the insides were coated or vinyl sheet was glued on.
Was supposed to help the particle board stand up, but it either made the humidity problem worse or they used really poorly made particle board. Constantly gluing that stuff back on.
I'll probably never want painted white cabinets ever again because of those.
I replaced some rusted steel kitchen cabinets from the 50's with the red oak front unfinished cabinets from Lowes, I found the cabinets from HD are all junk and would never buy them, so far we have had the cabinets for 5 years and don't have any issues with them. I did have to make my own shelves inside the cabinets, but just reused the wire shelves from the old steel cabinets.
If you go the cheap route, don't buy your counter tops from lowes, they will work ok, but the lower front edge laminate ends at the lower edge, anywhere near your sink water will run down to the lower edge and wick back into the counter top and cause it to swell, the counter tops at HD continue the laminate back underneath the bottom edge an inch or so to stop this from happening.
Since the upper steel cabinets were still in great shape, I covered the icky yellow doors with stick on shelf paper that had a wood grain, it has fooled more than one person.
old kitchen cabinets make great work bench/storage, I made a new work bench out of the best two steel cabinets and one of the old counter tops.
Anyone have an informed opinion about Ikea cabinets?
I'm favorably impressed by 'bang for the buck' quality of most Ikea products.
IKEA - I love 'em!!

Seriously, 4 years ago I replaced my kitchen, ripped it down to the drywall.... Replaced all cabinets and countertops.

Absolutely no problems, it still works as well as the day it was put in (by me). Cabinets were assembled by my wife (when i was out of town for work). The sustem they use to install the upper cabinets is genius, you bolt a metal rail to the wall and the cabinets just clamp on. insuring they are all level.

For a countertop we used ikea's butcher block, its oak and looks great, about twice a year I put some of the ikea oil on it (forget the type, its in my basement). The reason for the butcher block was 1) it was dirt cheap (seriously, I was amazed, I forget about $150). 2) I could install it myself 3) a lot of people have found that granite countertops actually emit enough radon that they are required to put in a radon pump when they sell their houses....

Its held up great, very happy with it. IKEA offers a surprisingly good selection of neat gizmos, their drawers and doors all have dampers, and they have some neat types of sliding cabinets.

Oh and they have a 3d kitchen designer program that you need to use to design the kitchen, it might sound daunting but my wife did that too (hey, its her room). They also offer a lot of assistance with that if needed.

Now, the cabinets are particle board, the fronts are real wood. But I have had very good luck and it looks nice!

Lowes or cheaper kitchen cabinets questions
What you see on the face is just what you get. But the construction of a box can be built very strong even though it is particle board. Been building cabinets and furniture for over 30 yrs. All the pre-fab ones I have seen are square but built like junk.

Years ago some painters told me they could stand on top of my uppers to paint in the vaulted kitchen.

Try that with these hot melt -plastic-bracketed- trash from HD. or Lowes.
My wife brought up the Ikea ones. Not sure. Might have to see them in Pittsburgh. Yours look great. Still doing homework and playing with the layout. I want to try and think of everything. I don't wanna say "shhh we should have done....". Thanks for info guys.
Don't worry about the cases, other than the ends you won't see them. Particle board makes an awesome cabinet, nice and flat and with the proper fasteners will make a strong enough joint to handle granite countertops. If the shelves are particle board you want 3/4" in a cabinet over 24" so they don't sag, but if you design doesn't have long cabinets don't worry about it. The drawers are what breaks first, then doors, then the finish. Put in shelf liners and use the handles you should be fine. I like the slow close drawers, and the undermounts give you a lot more space, but those weren't available in the cheaper cabinet lines when I was looking.

I've done 3 budget kitchens and a mid-line. For the budgets I used HD Mill's Pride, then some RTA cut-throat Chindia cabinets. The Mill's pride were the white laminate that was quite sturdy, and very very easy to clean/assemble. The RTA Chindia cabinets were real laquered wood., blum hinges, not bad for cheap. Of the five kitchens I was the most impressed with these. Yes the drawers were cheap on both budget sets and I could tell they would be what breaks soonest but for $700-$900 it was an absolute dream. No worries about un-square casing because you're asssembling them. No worries about chips or broken corners because they're so well packed it would take a lot to damage/scratch them.

For my house I got Kraftmaid, which isn't a budget cabinet but more of a mid-line. I wanted the dovetail drawers and undermount drawer guides. Price wasn't out of sight but to give a comparison I had less cabinets and the cost was over $3500compared to 700-900 on the budget stuff. My conclusion after a 3 month install nightmare: This stuff was garbage. Let me say it again: It was worse than the RTA. Scratches, gouges and unsquare boxes. The whole order was F*cked UP. They sent the wrong moldings three times, mixed cherry with maple crown, kept sending me the wrong drawer fronts another 3 times. Absolute bull. When I finally unpacked the pantry cabinet it almost fell over the casing was so crooked, The shelves were so uneven because the casing was out of square they would barely slide. When I sent them pictures they blamed me for dropping the cabinet, to which I asked them to check their eyes because the back was clearly nailed out of square so that nails were poking out the sides. They wouldn't send me a new cabinet, but offered a skin for the side to hide the nails, so all I'd have to do is "tweak" the shelves a little....... I'm getting upset. Breathe..............

I think its a lot like furniture. You used to have real garbage, then mid-line then good stuff. The garbage has gotten a lot better and the mid-line has gotten a lot worse, and the good stuff is still too much. I would never buy Krapmaid again. It wasn't the dealer, or the fact that I ordered in January when they were slow or busy. I just got screwed by them.
We just finished our own kitchen remodel last spring. We went with cabinets from Mei Kitchens who sell RTA (ready to assemble) cabinets. At first I was very very skeptical but they sent us out a small sample cabinet to try and WOW! First, there is not a single piece of particle board or MDF in anything. Cabinets are all 3/4" solid plywood with solid wood doors, European hinge system, quiet slides on all drawers and 100% square. Because you put them together, the cost was 75% less than Home Depot/Lowes or custom and it was great that we could simply put them together as we needed and didn't worry about a bunch of large boxes to work around. We had a carpenter friend who had done kitchens before help us out and by the end of the project, he was very impressed with the quality. No worry on these cabinets falling apart or not taking the weight load. Not a single staple or cheap fastener in any of them. Highly recommend you take a look at them. Once the project was done, we had a real estate agent neighbor take a look and she had no idea that they were not custom cabinets until we showed her the website to prove it!
Thanks for that info - I am going to price out my small kitchen from meikitchens and see how they do. The cabinets look very nice on the site...
Yea, they were good at helping us do the plan also. All we had to do was send them some pics of the existing and they came up with different layouts for us. We had various quotes from contractors to come in and do some of the work and they all couldn't believe the quality of cabinet we could get for the price. One company even said they were going to look at using them to supply them for future kitchen work.
Yea, they were good at helping us do the plan also. All we had to do was send them some pics of the existing and they came up with different layouts for us. We had various quotes from contractors to come in and quote some of the work and they all couldn't believe the quality of cabinet we could get for the price. One company even said they were going to look at using them to supply them for future kitchen work. In the end we did about 75% of the work ourselves so by saving money on the cabinets and some sweat equity, was able to put in a nice wood floor for both the kitchen and dining room/wood stove room that is made from carbonized bamboo. We bought that from a company online too!
heatit said:
Yea, they were good at helping us do the plan also. All we had to do was send them some pics of the existing and they came up with different layouts for us. We had various quotes from contractors to come in and quote some of the work and they all couldn't believe the quality of cabinet we could get for the price. One company even said they were going to look at using them to supply them for future kitchen work. In the end we did about 75% of the work ourselves so by saving money on the cabinets and some sweat equity, was able to put in a nice wood floor for both the kitchen and dining room/wood stove room that is made from carbonized bamboo. We bought that from a company online too!

My kitchen is really just one wall so layout / planning is pretty simple. With a dishwasher and an oven, I only need 2 base cabinets. Then on top I will have a draft hood, so i only need 3 up there. I am currently adding a large pantry in part of the former screened in porch so storage should not be an issue with the small kitchen.
the size of your kitchen matters, i have a quite big space for my kitchen which demands more cabinets to be installed. We have installed ready to assemble kitchen cabinets which were less expensive and were easy to install.
A big space doesn't demand more cabinets, it demands imagination. Otherwise once all those extra cabinets are installed one feels compelled to fill them.
As an option in a big space, I would consider putting in a wood cook stove.
Just installed a few ikea cabinets in mine own kitchen. I also have two separate friends that did their entire kitchen in them years ago and they have held up very well. They have a design app that is nothing fancy, but allows you to layout what you want (after a little learning curve), and then when you are done, you hit the button and it dumps a 'build sheet' of all the components/parts to the warehouse. I got every scrap delivered for $50 (I only own small cars). Very nice system. The wall cabinets are hung from a steel rail that you can screw into the studs, so they go in fast, straight and level.

As for the cabinets themselves...they are 'euro style', that is, you only see the doors, not the facing on the boxes. This is made possible by some fancy, well engineered, heavy duty hinges. In the end, this make the facing on the cabinets irrelevant (one less thing to clean). The hinges are also adjustable (by screws) to make the doors alignment in 3-d perfect without shimming. The 'ends' of the boxes get a 'cover sheet' whose finish matches that of the doors.

There are a wide variety of mix and match styles for the doors/handles/boxes/countertops. For a couple dollars more, all the doors and drawers have 'slow close' dampers, which gives a very finished high end feel. I think the pricing is very competitive.

One issue....I am 10 minutes from an ikea....I ended up making ~4 trips between picking/buying/getting some trim etc. If I was 2 hours away, not so great.

Two issue.....the standard legs for the base cabinets are plastic chit (designed to have a kickboard snapped to them).

In the end, the PITA part of these projects is the wiring and plumbing, which you will still have to figure out yourself....but that sounds like something the OP has a lot of experience with.
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Not much help on your original question, as I built my own cabinets with high grade plywood boxes and solid cherry framing and doors, solid wood shelves, euro style hinges. But, we planned what would go in each cabinet before I built them (dishes over the dishwasher, for example) so width would be right, made some cabinets deeper than others to handle over-sized plates and platters, and did some special designs for cooking supplies and spices. Also, all lower cabinets have drawers, not doors. Makes it very easy to access everything, nothing stuffed behind anything else. Under the cooktop, for example, two large drawers with all the pots and pans.
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